Walking two labyrinths of the same pattern, in similar settings near Washington, DC, provided a great opportunity to compare the little design details that give a labyrinth its individual character. Both the private Hallowood Retreat Center and the public Brookside Gardens sited their labyrinths next to small lakes. Both follow the Santa Rosa design by Dr. Lea Goode-Harris and use similar materials, rough gravel for the path and stone blocks to mark the path's boundaries. The two main points of difference are the sense of enclosure and the contrast between the path and its boundaries.
The Hallowood labyrinth slopes a little more than the Brookside site, toward the water, and is enclosed on the uphill side by a line of shrubs, trees, and large rocks. The waterside vista is toward the retreat center buildings on the other side of the lake. At a labyrinth event that I facilitated at Hallowood, one participant said she felt more enclosed than she expected, given how much of the site is open.
At Brookside, things are roughly reversed. The lakeside view is toward a large cypress tree and the island that shelters the Japanese tea house and garden. Away from the lake, the view is up a long hill.
The second major point of difference is the contrast between line and path. The Hallowood labyrinth uses larger blocks to mark the path than the one at Brookside. The roughly 2-to-1 ratio between lines and path gives it a very solid feel, accentuated by the stronger contrast between the dark gravel and lighter blocks. The Brookside labyrinth feels like it's drawn with a pencil, rather than a wide-tip marker, and the path is wider.
I rather like the scattering of leftover blocks near the entrance of the Brookside labyrinth. It gives it the suggestion of an ancient monument that has seen just a slight bit of decay.
I'm not saying that one is better than the other, only that these little differences -- and the effect they have on your walk -- are part of what makes it fun to visit outdoor labyrinths.